Hired Bride – Noelle Adams

I prefer reading books the traditional way; by flipping page after page of sumptuous words oozing emotions. Hired Bride, the first book in the Beaufort Brides series, came to me through Kindle, a medium that I’ve struggled to accept because of my snobby attitude and preference to paper books. My book challenge for this year is 52 books in 52 weeks. Thus, I was determined to read no matter the medium or genre.


When Deanna Beaufort agrees to marry Mitchell Graves for 6 months, she’s doing it to please her grandmother and repair the legacy of the house she holds so dear; both physically and emotionally. Mitchell, someone who’s always taken the easy route for everything, hopes that this union will help him with an important business deal. Both are not ready for the roller-coaster ride, their feelings will endure. Will they give in to their feelings and stay together or honour the agreement and part ways?

Though it’s a straightforward romance with a predictable plot, the characters keep you engaged. Deanna comes off as a damsel in distress most of the time. There are a few moments where she excels in confronting Mitchell, but overall she’s lukewarm. Mitchell is the standard template protagonist – charming, handsome, rich, brilliant, etc. The supporting characters, on the other hand, are hilarious and appealing. Deanna’s sisters are a sharp contrast to her personality. Her grandmother’s quirkiness is the foundation for most of the hilarity.

There are a lot of passionate, intimate, and sensitive moments that are quite gripping. There are moments when the story drags a bit, but these lapses can be forgiven. Deanna’s traditional outlook on love and marriage is dead opposite to Mitchell’s, who likes quickies and one-night stands. The development of the story is focused on how both embrace each other’s values and grow close to one another. It makes for a nice mushy romance.

This book is a good read if you have a couple of hours to kill and a good reader (because it’s an e-book) with you. It is a good start for a series that looks interesting to explore.

Genre: Romance

Overall Experience: Good

The Girl He Left Behind – Shilpa Suraj

My association with a Mills & Boon novel began when I was 8 or 9. My sister, a voracious bookworm, always had her abnormally large nose stuck between the pages of some or the other book. The covers of these books were fascinating; a shirtless, muscular man with his strong arms around the delicate frame of a semi-naked woman. In India, we have more watered down versions of these books and their covers; a fair (which is important), thin, and well-dressed maiden touching a fair (again, important), well-built gentleman. This is why I stay away from these books.

Our female protagonist is Sia Sharma, a successful editor at a huge publishing house. I know it’s huge because size really matters. Mr. Knight in Tight Clothes is Ryan Mathur, a self-made success story waiting to be replicated by gullible readers. Ryan, being an emotional wreck with a really dark secret dumps Sia one day, without giving her a chance to ask follow-up questions. This would, obviously, taper the number of pages so we are left with feeling “What the front door?”

Six years on, Sia is divorced from an abusive douchebag and is blissfully enjoying her singlehood while still pining for Ryan. Conveniently, he’s hired by Sia’s agency to create a marketing campaign for Nisha Malik, an author who is, like every other female character in the novel, attracted to Ryan. Seeing her true love (obviously) brings out Sia’s suppressed feelings. Now, it’s up to her to decide whether she’ll listen to her heart and let him back into her life or her head and keep it at “just friends”.

The protagonists are young and highly successful, the former being the demographic of its intended group of readers. To show that Sia is more than a sculpted enchantress; the author has her change a tyre and refuse help offered by Ryan’s friend, Adarsh. Thus, we are assured she is a “beauty with brains”. Besides a hot bod, Ryan is blessed with only 2 emotions, anger and confusion.

Supporting characters only appear when the scene calls for it. They have no role other than to be at the protagonists’ beck and call. To be fair, they are not boring. Ryan’s parents are dramatic, Sia’s are more easy-going, Minty is sympathetic, Nisha is brazen, and Adarsh is happy-go-lucky.

Misunderstandings that crop up are not tactfully handled. Rather than being a conversation, it becomes a scene with one person talking and the other person either leaving or the scene ending. And due to this, it becomes more of a “will they, won’t they” scenario. Their emotions do not justify their actions. For example, why didn’t Ryan tell Sia the real reason he’s breaking up with her? They’ve been friends since school. Doesn’t she deserve a little more information than some vague non-reply and an escape for 6 years? They break up, and chapter 2, it’s 6 years later. Ekta Kapoor would have approved.

The writing is simple and easy to understand though it is often burdened by its innumerable clichés which put you at the centre of a Bollywood movie script.

Let me list the clichés that this novel has.

  • Leads who would have definitely won Miss World and Mr. Universe based on their descriptions.
  • A female friend of the female lead who understands every emotion of the leads.
  • Goofy man Friday of the male lead. Always arguing with female lead’s best friend.
  • The protagonist has a heart of gold as she regularly visits an old age home.
  • Sympathetic parent.
  • An evil or abusive ex.
  • Almost kisses.
  • Saying “This is a mistake” or “That was a mistake” right after a kiss.
  • A family conflict that takes up way more dramatic ingredients than is required.
  • Cunning female anti-lead who has the hots for Mr. Drop Dead Gorgeous.
  • Catching a lead in a compromising position with the cunning vamp.
  • Sex that’s so passionate and orgasmic in words that will put many erotic fiction writers to shame.

Ironically, there’s a line in the book that says, “Clichés are clichés for a reason. They work.” In India, they work all the time. Many authors seem to benefit from them.

Indian readers who love a good romantic drama will thoroughly enjoy this book. It has all the makings of a nice love story with a pinch of conflict and a whole lot of emotions.

Genre: Romance.

Overall Experience: Satisfactory.

It’s Resolution (Making & Breaking) Time

Hey, all! Happy New Year (19 days later). I started 2016 just like last year. Woke up, looked in the mirror, and deftly went back to sleep. For me, January 1 is a day like any other. Nothing new. It took 365 days for the New Year to reach and rid us of the crap fest that was 2015. Most of you will agree that the last year was not a very pleasant one. Controversies, hate, ignorance, intolerance, sadness, and a great deal of irritability ruled our lives every day. Everybody rang in the New Year with a new hope, I’m sure. We’ve all made resolutions and since it’s day 19 already, we’ve already broken about 22 of them.


Are resolutions so hard to keep? Maybe it’s the irrational ones that are easy to break. Looking at so many lists, I felt even I had to share a list of things to do in 2016. Time for fresh starts. Here are a few resolutions that we should strive to keep.


Shaandaar: A Review

Logic. Reason. Meaning. Fun. All these were traits of a good, fun-filled, family-oriented Hindi movie in the old days. And by old days, I mean up to the early 2000s. Cut to the 2010s and we have Humshakals, Happy New Year, Tees Maar Khan, Joker, and now Shaandaar, a multifarious syndicate of confusion parading as films.


Better splurge your money in a bar, than buy a ticket for Shaandaar. (image source)

We begin with an animated introduction of how Alia (that’s also her name in the movie), is brought to live with Bipin Arora (Pankaj Kapoor) and family that constitutes his evil mother, nagging wife, and sweet daughter, Isha. Why this child is so important to Bipin is a very obvious answer. No surprises when the mystery is solved in the 2nd half of the movie. Presently, Bipin’s sweet (and fat) daughter, Isha, is set to marry an 8-packed douchebag in what is supposedly a lucrative business deal.

We are introduced to Jagjinder Joginder (Shahid Kapoor), whose funny name is a tribute to his parents. The magic of being Punjabi! Makes you feel bad for having gender-conforming named parents. Jagjinder Joginder is a wedding planner who is in charge of Alia’s fat sister’s wedding. Surprise! He is constantly at loggerheads with Bipin, has a thing for Alia, and adores the fat Isha (because she is his half-sister in real life). He is so fricking attractive that even the evil grandmother has the hots for him. Frankly, I can understand. Shahid Kapoor is a work of art.

Alia is an insomniac and has been raised on a diet of cheesy fairy tales and bananas by Bipin. She shares this trait with Jagjinder and they both bond and camaraderize over it. Hanging out with him causes her insomnia to dwindle and she starts falling asleep, much to the delight of Bipin. By now even I was falling asleep in the theatre. We also have a host of caricatures in the form of Mr. Fundwani (Sanjay Kapoor) and family, a stereotypical Sindhi family who wear gold underwears, jackets, coats, and carry gold revolvers. Mr. Fundwani’s penultimate addition of “the” in every sentence definitely didn’t have anyone laughing. This family, like the Arora’s, is trying to get out of bankruptcy with this freak show wedding.

If you haven’t yet slept reading this review, you might have noticed the not-so-subtle references to Isha’s weight everywhere. This is an important plot point in the movie. Since the whole wedding is a business deal, the unhappy groom casually pokes fun at the bride’s weight. There’s a paragraph dedicated to her unsightly weight in a qawwali. After being derided throughout the movie, she finally gets her moment and walks away from the wedding by shedding her inhibitions along with her clothes (excluding a petticoat) at the mandap.

Let me break it down:

The leads: Shahid Kapoor has always been a stunner when it comes to looks. How he manages to look 25 at 34 is beyond my understanding. Alia Bhatt is the simple-minded, “Bollywood cool” girl. Together, they make a really cute, bubbly, and endearing pair better suited to play siblings than a leading pair. Chemistry is zero. There are moments of longing looks, star gazing, and casual conversations, but overall it’s a damp pairing.


Cute but lacking. (image source)

Other characters: The supporting cast is so cliched that there isn’t a single positive note to say about them. Everyone is either loud, obnoxious or weak. The only character that you feel for is Isha, the butt of fat jokes and clearly not her daddy’s favourite. Karan Johar’s cameo was not needed, but it was the funniest part of the movie.

Songs: The songs are as relevant to the narrative as my pimple problems to Shah Rukh Khan. Barring the title song, which has Shahid gyrating effortlessly on the dance floor, none of the others hold your attention.


Perfection in a not so perfect world. (image source)

When someone says “Black and White Night” you assume that the dress code is black and white. In Shaandaar’s world, it means the colour filter is to be removed from the camera and the sequence is to be shot in grayscale. A bachelorette party is a bunch of androgynously dressed dancers making Isha feel good.


(image source)

The plot: The plot is like an intelligent sentence uttered by a politician. Wise, well-thought-out, sensible, and non-existent.

The bikini scene: Like every other Bollywood bikini scene, it is unnecessary. Alia Bhatt was fat, lost weight, and can now wear a bikini. Yahoo! The slow motion undressing was so awkward that it made Rahul Gandhi’s interview with Arnab Goswami engaging.

Portrayal of homosexuals: Bollywood hasn’t grown up to the fact that being gay is not about acting like a sissy or being overly (or even remotely) feminine. Gay men are still men. There is no need for them to be put into roles that show them waving their hands all the time or unable to hold a gun upright. It’s insulting and regressive.

In this confusing menagerie, we are left to wonder who or what exactly is this movie about. Is it Alia’s search for her prince? Is it Isha’s liberation from her insecurities? Is it Bipin’s bonding with his daughters? Shandaar is a disjointed mess of scenes and songs masquerading as “India’s first destination wedding film”. Ever since the success of movies such as Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, and Dil Dhadakne Do, movies involving the concept of young (and rich) people travelling to exotic destinations for leisure has risen. The locations are nice and the castle used as the wedding location is mind-blowing. That doesn’t make it a destination wedding. This movie is the best example of a trailer being better than the movie. Boy were we fooled!


Everyone’s reaction to the movie.

If you found this review confusing and incoherent, it’s because it is a reflection of my brain after watching this movie. Why did Shahid Kapoor agree to participate in this mess after the masterpiece that was Haider is beyond my understanding. Better watch it when it comes on TV or best not watch it at all.

A Child-free Happy Life

How do you measure satisfaction? What makes you you? How is your life defined? I often ask these questions to myself. The best answer is that my life is defined by my choices. Good or bad; they are mine. If I jump from a building tomorrow (with a parachute, of course), it’s because I want to experience bungee jumping.

I do not love definitions. Not only are they limiting, but are unnecessary. I am terrified when I get asked “Tell me about yourself” in interviews. And this is where the problem begins. As a person of the female being, society has conveniently put my existence into 3 categories. First, as someone’s daughter. Second, as someone’s wife. Third, as someone’s mother. This is what rattles my bones the most because society has programmed a woman to think that her life centres around servitude and dependence.

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